The Boston Phoenix
January 28 - February 4, 1999

[Music Reviews]

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Dave's world

The other Kink comes to town

Cellars by Starlight by Brett Milano

Dave Davies Every Kinks fan must have at least one question he or she is dying to ask Dave Davies. Near the top of my list would be this one: did he really tell his brother Ray to "fuck off" right before playing the climactic guitar solo on "You Really Got Me," as Ray recently claimed on his solo tour?

"Yeah, I did that," brother Dave confirms from Los Angeles. "He'd been getting on my case all day and there was so much tension -- the manager gave us 200 quid to do the session because the original recordings were so messed up. It was real make-or-break. Ray wouldn't leave me alone and I was thinking, 'I know what I have to do, so why do you have to keep standing there looking at me?' So I just said it, 'Fuck off!' "

Is that why it's such a hot solo?

"Well, I don't know about that. But it was pretty manic."

With or without Dave's little interjection, "You Really Got Me" will likely be in the set list when the guitarist/singer hits the Boston area for three shows next week. He'll make his in-town solo debut at the Middle East this Wednesday (the 3rd), then play two nights at the venue he sold out last summer, the Sit 'n Bull Pub in Maynard. If the idea of a veteran British rocker doing small clubs sounds a bit like Spinal Tap, his shows last year suggested otherwise: backed by a creative band who knew their Kinks inside and out, he did right by a cross-section of Kinks hits and fan faves, about two-thirds his and one-third Ray's. He's just released a double anthology titled Unfinished Business: Dave Davies Kronikles (Velvel) that makes a case for him as being a gifted, if unprolific songwriter. And there's no denying that Boston bands have shown an enduring love for the Kinks -- just consider the Boston Rock Opera productions of Preservation and the Kinks pop stylings of popular local outfits like the Gravel Pit, the Gigolo Aunts, and the Lyres, all of whom have been known to cover tunes from the Ray and Dave songbook.

It was another club-level Kinks tribute, in Los Angeles five years ago, that set Dave on the road. His current group -- ex-Muffs drummer Jim LaSpesa, former Wednesday Week keyboardist David Nolte, and bassist David Jenkins -- were the house band for a charity show. "They invited me to play and I really didn't want to, but it was for charity and I figured I had to do it. So I did my 20 minutes and really enjoyed it. They've been with me ever since."

Any weirdness about doing small clubs after big arenas with the Kinks? "No, I just wanted to get out and perform. Apart from everything else, I'm a musician and I like to work. And it's more intimate this way; you can see people's faces and it's less ego-driven."

There's no telling whether the Kinks will ever be heard from again, though Dave scotches a rumor Ray was spreading last year, namely that the original Kinks line-up (with bassist Pete Quaife and drummer Mick Avory) would be coming together for a tour. "I was more surprised than anybody to hear that, because Ray had never talked to me about it. I'd like to get together and do another Kinks record, but at the moment there's nothing planned."

Did the Kinks make any formal plans to go on hiatus after 1993's Phobia tour? "No, but I think that tour was partly Ray's experiment to see if he could do it without me. He used to come out before we did and just do 10 minutes on his own. I used to joke about that on stage. I used to say `We've got to find a better support band.' He didn't like that very much."

Dave got a jump on his brother by publishing an autobiography, Kink, about six months before Ray did. Whereas Ray's book, X-Ray, is an oblique and semi-fictionalized work, Dave's has its share of juicy personal disclosures. He reveals, for instance, that his teenage girlfriend got pregnant early in the Kinks days, that the couple's parents kept them from seeing each other, and that Dave didn't meet his 30-year-old daughter until four years ago. That's what some of his more enigmatic Kinks songs, like "Mindless Child of Motherhood," were about. "A lot of what I wrote at the time was based on those feelings, the anger I felt at not being with her."

But the real eyebrow raiser in Dave's book -- and if you're cynical, its main link to Spinal Tap -- is that he claims to have made contact with extraterrestrials. The experience happened during a Kinks tour in 1983 and was the subject of a solo album, Chosen People, that he made that year. "The album's out of print and they won't let me have the tapes -- some people would say there's a conspiratorial thing behind that. What happened was a very profound thing and it changed my life. You have karmic moments, as if you'd known it all from another time. I met my spirit guides, who said they'd watch over me and they'd be back. They explained how they were here to delegate certain energy and information. I wasn't abducted, at least not that I'm aware of, but I've spoken to people who have been abducted, and they tell me it's a similar experience."

Of course, extraterrestrial intelligence can have its benefits. "At first I was terrified, I thought I was going totally crazy. Then we did a soundcheck and I started to play, and I saw how music can be a channel to break down psychic rubbish. And I thought, 'Shit, now I can really do something. If this is real, this is really cool.' "

GRANING RETURNS

Ex-Scarce leader Chick Graning has kept a low profile since that well-liked band's demise three years ago. Now living in New York, he's made a fresh start: he recently cut some demos at Figgs member Pete Donnelly's home studio, and he's enlisted local rockers Delta Clutch (whose roster includes Graning's former Anastasia Screamed bandmate guitarist Christopher Cugini) as his semi-regular back-up outfit. They'll appear together this Friday at Bill's Bar.

Expect to hear new material, since Graning is banning all Scarce songs. "I play them solo, but it would be wrong with a band -- four fat guys doing those songs wouldn't have the same charm," he explains over the phone from New York. "But it's the same guy writing now, so it won't be that different. I hate to use the phrase `grown as a songwriter' -- that's a really asinine thing to say about yourself. But I've been working a lot on writing."

Fans will recall that Scarce's last year was a traumatic one: Graning suffered an aneurysm on the eve of the release of their A&M debut, Deadsexy. The band did hit the road again within months of his recovery, but Graning's not sure that was such a good idea. "I probably got out again a little too soon. But you know the music business -- three months can make a big difference."

Although he's aware that, at their peak, Scarce set a pretty high standard for him to try to match now, he's taking the situation in stride. "Before Scarce I was in Anastasia Screamed, which was a band that nobody liked. So maybe now we can have a happy medium."

APE HANGERS BENEFIT

One of our favorite punk/pop bands, the Ape Hangers, had a spot of bad luck recently when their van was stolen after a mid-December gig in Worcester. The van was later recovered, but it needed a lot of repairs, and most of the group's equipment -- including all of their amps, and a vintage drum kit played by Dennis McCarthy -- had been stolen. A bunch of friends will be joining the band for a benefit show at the Linwood this Friday: seminal Boston punks the Eaters (formerly Nervous Eaters), the Nines, Caged Heat, the Delusions, and Wide Iris.

"We probably can't recover everything from one show, but it will be a good chance to get some friends out for support," says manager Steve Riccardo, who reports that the band have been honoring their gigs using back-up equipment. Incidentally, another local rock veteran has just joined the Eaters: their new bass player (replacing Alpo, who's back with the Real Kids) is John Hartcorn, the original bassist of the Neighborhoods.

COMING UP

The Strangemen blast off at Bill's Bar tonight (Thursday), the Sterlings and Boy Wonder are at the Middle East, Eric Burdon finishes two nights at the House of Blues, and alterna-country heroes Old 97's are at T.T. the Bear's Place with the Shods opening . . . Rockabilly fun at T.T.'s tomorrow (Friday) with the Racketeers and Raging Teens. Railroad Jerk are at the Middle East with a strong support line-up including the Peer Group, Good Furies, and Mr. Airplane Man. Flexie and Señor Happy are at the Lansdowne Street Music Hall, and Young Neil & the Vipers hit Harpers Ferry . . . Rasputina and January play an intriguing double bill at Lansdowne Street Music Hall on Saturday. Betwixt and Neptune are upstairs at the Middle East while Seam and Victory at Sea play downstairs, and Ultrabreakfast are at the Linwood . . . The Elevator Drops return to their old stomping ground, Jacques, on Sunday.
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